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We Drivers (1935 edition)

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We Drivers (1935 edition)

Published 1936

Early driving safety film showing good and bad sides of a driver's mind.

Run time 10:30
Producer Handy (Jam) Organization
Sponsor General Motors Corporation, Public Relations Staff
Audio/Visual Sd, B&W/C


We Drivers was released as part of an industry-wide safety campaign throughout the Thirties. Two years earlier, in 1934, the first driver training courses began in American schools, and the film was no doubt made to be shown to pioneering driver ed students. In 1936, the Automotive Safety Foundation was organized, funded jointly by car manufacturers, tire companies, the oil industry and insurance firms. As Ed Cray put it in Chrome Colossus: General Motors and Its Times (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1980), "the foundation deflected criticism from the vehicle itself...". The Foundation lobbied for more and better roads, promoted mandatory state motor vehicle inspections (blaming accidents on motorists keeping their vehicles in poor mechanical condition), but ignored the design defects of automobiles.
Of 55 films distributed by the General Motors Film Library, We Drivers was the most popular. This, the first version, was shown in 7,000 theaters over ten months in 1936-37 and also seen by 24 million people in schools, institutions and community groups. Its technical complexity (including photography of models, full animation, animation over real photography, and technical animation, all in early three-strip Technicolor) necessitated an eleven-month production schedule. Later, it was remade at least four more times to update the look of the cars seen in every scene. A short booklet, also called We Drivers, was also made available by GM for "the safety, comfort and pleasure of the motoring public."
The strategy that We Drivers chooses to employ dramatizes safe vs. unsafe behavior as a struggle for good and evil within the mind of the all-too-human driver. In eight sequences, the animated characters "Reckless Rudolph" and "Sensible Sam", an earlier incarnation of the right path/wrong path "Goofus and Gallant", fight to outdo each other, interacting in the same frame as their host. The one-reeler ends with a boxing match: Sam K.O.'s Rudy, and the referee's long count becomes a recitation of short and sweet maxims, ending with an admonition to "Obey all laws!" Like the print advertising of the 1930s, often tending towards tabloid-type headlines and copy designed to grab readers who were defecting to the radio, this film filters its complex message through ten patronizing slogans. In the end this entertaining film, on the surface designed to teach self-control, becomes an instance of mind control.

Contents. An appeal for safe driving practices.
Opens with an animation of a prize fight between two cartoon characters, Reckless Rudolph and Sensible Sam. In the scenes that follow, the figures of Reckless Rudolph and Sensible Sam are superimposed on views of a real driver. Reckless Rudolph offers bad counsel, and Sensible Sam counteracts it with his good advice. A driver passes a car and almost collides with an oncoming vehicle. The commentator says that passing a car at 40 miles per hour is like passing 18 cars parked bumper to bumper and urges that drivers make sure they have sufficient clearance before passing. A giant character, Old Man Momentum, is introduced to symbolize the need for slackening speed at turns and descending hills in a lower gear. An airplane following a car around a curved speedway illustrates the need for banking roads to overcome centrifugal force.
A sequence on night driving is introduced by views of a man driving at high speed at night. Lights are dimmed in meeting cars. An animated diagram explains the term "overdriving your light." After a sleepy driver nearly collides with a parked truck, Sensible Sam prevails upon him to stop for the night. Need for special precautions under conditions of unusually low visibility is illustrated. In a fog a good driver reduces his speed, dims his lights, sounds his horn periodically, and keeps close to the right side of the road.
The commentator says that friction is an enemy of most moving parts of the automobile, but that it is necessary for stopping and starting. Sensible Sam cautiously feels his way along an icy sidewalk while Reckless Rudolph, proceeding carelessly, falls. A driver demonstrates "easy braking" in engaging the clutch in icy weather.
The significance of traffic signs is demonstrated by views of signs, each of which dissolves to an animated diagram of the situation it denotes. A motorist slows down on seeing a school-crossing sign and is able to avoid hitting a tardy child who dashes across his path. After the commentator says that the driver must never try to predict what the "other fellow" is about to do, a pedestrian walks out from between parked cars, is nearly hit, and is about to protest vigorously when he notices that he is driving the car himself. Animated diagrams explain the term "margin of safety." A daydreaming driver nearly collides with a car ahead.
The scene returns to the prize fight as Sensible Sam knocks out Reckless Rudolph. The referee enumerates ten safety rules.
Appraisal. Reported very good for illustrating safe driving practices. Found useful in giving students an appreciation of the automobile driver's responsibilities.
Teachers reported that the animated figures representing man's dual personality were very effective, and many students reported that they liked this type of presentation.
Photography is excellent, sound good.

Ken Smith sez: Reckless Rudolph and Sensible Sam, color cartoon characters, "represent the duel personalities in us all." They portray the bad and good consciences of a typical driver (they call him "boss"). Reckless seems intent on killing the poor guy with bad advice, while Sensible prefers to nag him like a nervous mother-in-law. This visually innovative film features beautiful color animation, a hairy, double-exposure giant ("Old Man Mountain Momentum") who pushes cars around, and one scene where the driver yells at himself in seamless split photography. Winner of the 1936 first place award from the National Safety Council. Definitely the most entertaining version of this film. At least three others were made -- in 1951, 1955, and 1962.
Shot list:
animated sequence of boxing match between "Reckless Rudolph" and "Sensible Sam" animated characters, representing evil and good respectively. Throughout the film, Rudolph tries to trap the human driver into an accident; Sam warns him so as to avert accidents.

over the shoulder shot of man driving down road in 1935 or 1936 General Motors automobile, car in front of him. Figure of tall, skinny man appears in left hand corner, he then fades away, different one now appears on right hand side of drivers head; shot of what is behind the car from drivers point of view, figure of little animated man on right speaking, figure of little man on the left speaking, driver begins to pass car in front of him.

car passing another car from passing car's point of view, car is passing while another is coming directly at it from other direction, they almost crash into each other.

high shot of dirt road.

car passing another car, 18 cars lined up as car passes them. (This half-animated, half-live action diagram shows amount of distance necessary for safe passing on two-lane highways.)

car driving down street, up a hill.

busy street intersection

rear view of cars driving down road, car passing two other cars.

LS car driving down road

car driving down road, trees along right hand side of road.

man driving car - over the shoulder shot - white, superimposed figure of cartoon man appears on each side of drivers head, whispering something into drivers ear. This character is called "Old Man Mountain Momentum."

car goes around a curve to fast almost hitting fence.

high shot - car driving down road in lower left hand corner, right hand side of picture contains large (superimposed) man looking down at car, giant man places hand on roof of car, then both hands pushing car down hill.

car driving around proving ground test track with airplane plane over head.

car driving through intersection almost hitting another car.

CU man shifting gears

LS of car driving up hill, man walking up hill in BG.

over shoulder shot, driver going down hill, white cartoon figures appear again.

shot out back window of car from drivers point of view, large face of giant man in window.

driver shifting car

house on hill

car driving down hill

over shoulder shot man driving at night; he is very tired.

CU of speedometer that reads 55 mph, speed moving up.

over shoulder shot of man driving, head lights can be seen coming in other direction.

CU man pressing down on gas pedal

CU of speedometer that reads 70 mph

CU of white cartoon figure behind drivers head, other one appears also after other has left, driver continues to drive ahead in dark, white cartoon figure is speaking to him, figure pulls out stick, waves it, darkness than becomes daytime; disabled truck in roadway with driver waving down car is seen, then picture becomes night again.

seven lines appear on screen, light begins to appear to right.

profile of man driving car.

man pressing on gas pedal

profile of man driving

man pressing on brake

small cars driving down track

over shoulder shot of man driving, night time, drawing of saw cutting wood over his head.

CU of clock that reads 1:50 am

sign that reads "Motorists get a good night sleep"

man sleeping in bed, white cartoon figure is also sleeping in right hand corner.

other white cartoon figure walking on head board.

white cartoon man in bed yawning

car driving at camera through foggy weather.

buoy floating in water

airplane flying through fog

ship sailing through fog

plane landing in foggy weather

train going through fog

conductor watching out side of train, pulling on horn

darkness, headlights shining at camera

over shoulder shot, windshield wipers are working, white cartoon figures also appear.

front window of car from drivers point of view, he dims lights to help see better in fog.

CU of steering wheel, white cartoon figure sitting in center on horn.

MS back of car, white cartoon figure appears in back window.

Tire, picture is very dark

line of cars driving toward camera, picture is titled from top left hand corner to bottom right hand corner.

moving parts in car engine

CU car left front bumper, car has Florida license plate.

CU stopped car in intersection, crossing guard in upper left hand corner, license plate reads 3T 833, car drives up almost hitting already stopped car.

high angle car speeding down road turning a corner

MCU front half of car driving down road.

cars driving down road in snow storm.

CU tire on snowy road

snow on ground, feet can be seen walking through top of picture on path, white cartoon figures also appear. Feet walk off right side of picture, one white figure walks off screen, other white figure slides across top of screen falling down.

traffic light

CU foot pressing on brake

CU tire coming to stop

traffic light

CU feet operating car

CU of tire beginning to move

cars driving down city street

traffic sign, in color, curving road ahead (This sequence shows in Technicolor animation what common road warning signs mean, by linking them to pictures of actual road conditions)

traffic sign out line, birds-eye view, animated depiction of the traffic sign just presented, color

traffic sign, color

animated depiction of traffic sign just presented, color

traffic sign, railroad crossing, color

animated depiction, color, railroad crossing

CU traffic light, changing colors

sign that reads, "school ahead, drive carefully"

young girl walking down sidewalk, wearing dress, carrying books in right hand, girl runs out into street right in front of moving car.

busy street intersection (city)

01:39:38:00 - 01:40:01:00
CU of traffic light, more shots of busy streets, ending with another CU of traffic light

CU man sitting in car

traffic cop blowing whistle

stopped car beginning to move, profile shot of man driving car

busy street, lots of traffic and people

stop sign

over shoulder shot man driving car down street, man walks out in front of it almost being hit. Driver begins to yell at pedestrian for walking out in front of him, he walks toward driver, looks and realizes he is looking at himself, begins to laugh, as well as driver. CU of white cartoon man laughing. Man walks away from car turns laughing, waves hand, turns and walks away.

Birds eye view cars driving down road separated by lines

over shoulder shot of man driving down street, he is listening to car radio; woman's voice is singing "I'm in the mood for love." White cartoon man appears, points to upper right hand corner, woman head than appears singing, man disappears, other white cartoon man appears pops circle containing woman's head, making loud noise, forcing driver to stop fast just avoiding hitting another car.

CU back of man's neck, sitting in car.

Animated characters "Reckless Rudolph" and "Sensible Sam" are in boxing ring. "Reckless Rudolph" on left begins to spin around, knocked out. Large hand comes into picture counting # 1-10, each time a statement is shown.

1 Always be courteous
2 Know how to drive
3 Both hands on wheel
4 Watch traffic signs
5 Keep a safety margin
6 Use hand signals
7 Keep right
8 Keep sober
9 Stop when angry
10 Obey all laws

"Sensible Sam" boy being declared winner of boxing match

the end

General Motors Corp. (sponsor) Safety education Safety films Traffic safety Animation Surrealism Fantasy Good versus evil Characters (animated) Driving Automobiles Driving (point-of-view)


Reviewer: The_Emperor_Of_Television - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - March 13, 2013
Subject: Very good
As ERD says, it's nice seeing scenes of the 1930s (traffic, etc).
Reviewer: ERD - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - September 18, 2006
Subject: Excellent 1930's Driver's Ed. film
Well done Driver's Ed. film for its time. Enjoyed seeing the 1930's cars and streets as well.
Reviewer: CaptainCaveman - favoritefavoritefavorite - January 20, 2006
Subject: Devil & Angel on sholder routine done differently... Will Sensible Sam Prevail??
Another good Handy Jam Educational film.
I thought it was interesting how the right from wrong concience was played out by Sensible Sam and his nemisis.
Reviewer: Spuzz - favoritefavoritefavorite - August 31, 2005
Subject: Hurray for Sensible Sam!
Reckless Rudolph and Sensible Sam, when not duking out with each other in the ring, (and Iáïll repeat what Umass asked.. Why do they have no nipples?) have nothing better to do then to pass evil thoughts into a driveráïs head. The bad guy tells him to speed up, the good guy tells him to slow down, the bad guy tells him to pass someone, the good guy says to donáït worry about it, etc etc. Itáïs sort of fun examining the topic of road rage during the 1930áïs I guess, but this is a bit repetitious. Nice count out/down sequence at the end though.
Reviewer: MediaWhore - favoritefavoritefavorite - June 10, 2004
Subject: Drive Fast, Take Chances!
This film shows good examples of road rage in it's early stages. Be on the look out for the bizarre and creepy Mad Mountain Character (old scary guy wearing a diaper who pushes cars downhill).
Reviewer: Umass_Kid - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - April 3, 2004
Subject: "I'll be seeing you!"
First why do the cartoon characters have no nipples?
Second, great shots of different scenes involving California highways, 1930ÃÂÃÂs cars, and city streets.
Third talking voices in your head? Would you want this guy on the road?
Reviewer: EWKEANE - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - April 23, 2003
Subject: still true today, tomorrow
In this film, students of driving methods learn the basic principals of mass flow, accelleration/decelleration, mass movement syncronization, ect... neccessary to operate an automobile like a professional. timeless classic.
Reviewer: Christine Hennig - favoritefavoritefavorite - October 14, 2002
Subject: We Drivers
Animated Reckless Rudolph and Sensible Sam battle in the boxing ring, and over the soul of the average driver, like in cartoons when a character has a moral dilemma and a little devil whispers in one ear and an angel in the other. Sensible Sam wins, of course, and the boxing ring countdown turns into a list of ten rules for traffic safety, ending with "Obey all laws!" Like many films of this type, its message is undercut by its dogmatic tone and the goody two-shoes quality of Sensible Sam.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***. Also available on Our Secret Century, Vol. 4: Menace and Jeopardy.
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